A complaint by a Bradley County, Tenn., resident that a deputy seized his phone and handcuffed him for filming at a traffic stop is being investigated by internal affairs, the sheriff's office says.
Terrell Parks' video of the Sunday evening confrontation at Harry's on Wildwood Avenue in Bradley County has spread widely on social media.
Parks told the Times Free Press his cousin, Jamichael Parks, was handcuffed, detained, questioned and harassed by Bradley County Sheriff's Office deputy Dale Liner.
Terrell Parks said the two stopped at Harry's around 6 p.m. and noticed several police vehicles around a truck near the gas pumps. Deputies were questioning three people from the truck who he recognized as relatives.
He said that as he walked toward the store, he asked if they were all right. One nodded yes, Terrell Parks said.
Then, "Liner comes up to me and says, 'Oh, so you think you're tough. You must want to go to jail today,'" Terrell Parks said. He said Liner chest-bumped him as he walked in the store and called him a "punk a —— ."
Terrell sent Jamichael out to get the phone from their car, and the video was taken as Jamichael walked back to the store, Terrell Parks said.
Terrell said he was inside when Liner grabbed the phone from Jamichael and detained him. Then Liner told him, "If you come out this door, you will go to jail," Terrell Parks said. The clerk let him out a side door where Liner confronted him again, telling him to leave or go to jail.
When he asked for his phone back, Parks said, Liner told him, "It's police property now. It's been seized. We're going to keep it and go through it."
Parks said other Bradley officers present, including one identified as Lt. Tom Wasson, made no move to stop the harassment.
Terrell Parks said he went to Jamichael's sister's house. Eventually Jamichael and the three from the truck were turned loose without charges and the phone was returned, minus the video.
Terrell Parks said he retrieved the video from the delete file, along with one the deputies apparently filmed unknowingly while searching the purse of a passenger in the truck.
Parks said he studied criminal justice at Middle Tennessee State University, and that Liner instigated the entire confrontation for no reason.
"I would completely understand if I did something to provoke the officer, said something out of the way, to make them interact like that," said Terrell, a father of two who works as a delivery driver.
Jamichael Parks, a truck driver, said Liner "was just messing with us. He said something to Terrell, trying to get him to react so there would be a situation."
Jamichael said he retrieved the phone and turned on the video for protection.
"This type of stuff happens every day. There had to be a reason why I brought that phone out," he said.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said in an emailed statement that "The First Amendment protects our right to take photos and video of anything that is plainly visible in public spaces, and that includes police and other government officials carrying out their duties.
"The constitutional right of Tennesseans to document law enforcement's actions during public events without fear of being detained, harassed or even arrested is a crucial aspect of our democracy's system of checks and balances."
Jamichael Parks said he filled out a complaint form at the Bradley County Sheriff's Office but wasn't given a copy. He said his brother, who works in the gang unit at the Chattanooga Police Department, is going with him to the sheriff's office on Friday to talk to a lieutenant.
"I'm a working man. My goal is to get people off the task force that's like that. He was abusing his power. He had no right to do what he did."
Asked for information and a copy of the complaint, sheriff's office spokesman James E. Bradford Jr. said only that internal affairs was investigating and the office would make a statement when the probe concludes.
Terrell Parks said he hasn't filed a complaint.
"I was there, I was mistreated, but I don't think anything is going to come of it because it happens on a daily basis for people like me, people of color."
He posted the video on Facebook, he said, because "I just wanted people to be aware there's cops out here on a daily basis doing this stuff."
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.